Teaching Philosophy

This website is designed to demonstrate inclusive design for those differently abled.

Brett H Cook-Snell outside.

I preface my philosophy with the caveat that there is no universal formula for successful teaching. The art and process of teaching is as much dependent upon the instructor as it is upon the student, the context, and the instructional goals. My philosophy is drawn from direct classroom and distance teaching experience, learning theory, and instructional design theory as much as it is from social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986) and developmental theory (Perry, 1981).

Learning Philosophy and Underpinnings

Our job is to see beyond where our students are and into who they are.

As suggested by developmental theory (Perry, 1981), individuals progress through a series of phases during the maturation process which influence how they come to know what they know, and how they interpret and reconcile new information. Learning is a collaborative endeavor directly related to the constructs of self, nature, nurture, and society (Bandura, 1986). Individuals learn for many reasons, including to solve problems (Jonassen, 2011) and to resolve cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957). This is dictated, in part, by the values and mores of society, the individual’s self-efficacy and social circumstances, and the learner’s own abilities. The role of the teacher is to facilitate the process of learning within these constraints.

Instructional Design Philosophy and Underpinnings

Our job is to provide a venue for students to show off their knowledge, not for us to show off our knowledge.

Relevant to instructional design, I place a high emphasis on teaching problem-solving through a blending of the behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism paradigms. My personal belief as a constructivist is that constructivism is not the best-suited instructional design approach. Before learners can know what they don’t know, they must first be provided the foundational knowledge (behaviorism) and skill set (metacognition) upon which to learn (cognition). Introducing appropriate amounts of dissonance within the instruction (germane cognitive load in cognitive load theory (Sweller, 2010)) facilitates this process when instructional objectives are derived from course competencies. However, there are times when this approach breaks down in the classroom. Based upon experience, adopting a constructivist approach allowing the learner to participate in the revision of assignments, activities, and resources that will meet predefined learning objectives engages the learners at a more authentic cognitive level and increases learning potential.

Teaching Philosophy and Underpinnings

Our job is to know that our students are more than learners, they are individuals like you and I that have within them the power to change the world or be changed by the world. I choose to believe they have the power to change the world, and my job is to facilitate that.

In conjunction with my learning and instructional design philosophies, Anderson (2008) and Sternberg (2003) provide the framework for my teaching philosophy. Anderson emphasizes three key areas of engagement for successful instruction: student-to-content, student-to-instructor, and student-to-student. Sternberg suggests that instruction should leverage practical intelligence (common-sense), creative intelligence (creativity), and intellectual intelligence (content). Through the course of instruction, my goal as facilitator is to design learning environments (face-to-face or distance) that address each of these throughout some portion of the curriculum. As both Anderson and Sternberg observe, it is not necessary (or possible) that every lesson address each facet, but that each facet be addressed sometime within the set of lessons that constitute a unit or curriculum


Note: To improve readability for screen readers, even though ampersands and italics are required in APA, I did not use them to prevent the screen reader from reading all the jots and tittles that most readers don't want to hear!

Anderson, T. (2008). Towards a theory of online learning. In T. Anderson (Ed.), The theory and practice of online learning (2nd ed.). Edmonton, AB: AU Press, Athabasca University.

Bandura, A., and National Institute of Mental Health. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

Jonassen, D. (2011). Learning to solve problems: A handbook for designing problem-solving learning environments. NY, Routledge.

Perry, W. G., Jr. (1981). Cognitive and ethical growth: The making of meaning. In A. Chickering The modern American college: Responding to the new realities of diverse students and a changing society. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc.

Sweller, J. (2010). Element Interactivity and Intrinsic, Extraneous, and Germane Cognitive Load. Educational Psychology Review, 22(2), 123-138. doi:10.1007/s10648-010-9128-5

Sternberg, R. J. (2003). Wisdom, intelligence, and creativity synthesized. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.